It’s Spring Break time and everyone’s ready to shake off those winter blues. It’s also the perfect time to clean up -- not just your house, but your personal and professional routines. For instance, when was the last time you re-examined your work habits to remain as productive as possible?
Rather than put another action item on your to-do list, let us break down some of the tried and true habits of the most productive among us.
1. Take It One Thing at a Time
In today’s busy world, we often feel the need to tackle everything at once. But stop the multi-tasking: it may be making your day more stressful. Research actually shows that multi-taskers are far less productive than those who focus on one task at a time. To stay focused, experts recommend reviewing the night before everything you need to accomplish the following day. This approach enables you to develop an actionable plan. Create a to-do list to remind you of your goals, and most importantly - eliminate distraction. We’re looking at you, Twitter/Facebook!
2. Feeling Stuck? Get Moving!
If you’re feeling anxious, experiencing writers’ block, or simply stressed out, studies show there is no better way to beat the feeling than a quick round of exercise. In fact, more and more companies, like Overit Media, are implementing exercise breaks due to its many benefits. While activities like running and dancing are suggested, they may not be workplace-friendly. Consider a quick walk to the coffee shop instead. By the time you get back to your desk, data suggests your energy levels will be back up, leaving you feeling more confident and creative.
3. Be Prepared for the Unexpected
In the PR industry, we know how crucial it is to expect the unexpected. If you create a schedule that is jam-packed with to-do’s, you will feel drastically more stressed if the unexpected comes knocking. Leaving small, unscheduled time blocks is a fool-proof way to focus on any urgent surprises that come your way. And if the unexpected doesn’t come knocking, you’ll still be able to use that time for your never-ending list of projects.
4. Take Advantage of Technology
When productivity tips alone won't cut it, there are countless apps to help you stay on track. Here’s a list of some of the best scheduling, note-taking and business apps to ensure you stay focused and motivated to get the job done.
Fantastical 2: Fantastical 2's been called the best calendar app thanks to it’s seamless design, natural language text entry and iCloud reminders. The app makes it very easy to add and edit events -- plus its organized interface makes it simple to read in the weekly and monthly view. Another plus? It supports any calendar you can add to iOS.
Sunrise: This free calendar app for Android and iOS goes above and beyond your usual calendar. It has all of the basic calendar features like alerts, but it also has the “fun stuff” like weather alerts, photo avatars, smart icons for each event - and even integrates with other apps like FourSquare, to provide you with a history of everywhere you’ve been. And the best part? The app is totally free.
Google Keep: Many note-taking apps have added loads of new, not always necessary features. Google Keep did the exact opposite. What’s so great about the app is its absolute simplicity. You open Google Keep, tap the empty note box and type away. Then, select a name and color code it. You can also do the same for image and voice notes. Because of its simplicity, Google Keep is recommended for rapid note-takers who don’t need any fancy features.
Trello: The key word for Trello is “customizable.” This app is your own digital bulletin board, allowing you to set up pretty much anything - to-do lists, events, notes and more. To take advantage of Trello, users create lists that are then filled with “cards,” ranging from tasks and notes, to ideas and pictures. Then, users can drag those cards to lists or drop into others. Trello also allows users to share with other users, and invite them to create new cards, add comments and assign tasks.
Evernote: Evernote, one of the most popular note-taking services, allows users to take (and upload) notes, pictures, voice recordings and video to organize into cloud notebooks that can be transferred to other devices. Evernote comes in both a free and paid version - the free version lets users upload 60MB worth of content every month, with paid accounts delivering more options.
Refresh: Refresh is an amazing tool for those who network (and those who don’t) or pitch new businesses. You’ll never forget a business contact’s name. Refresh checks your calendar for meetings and automatically pulls up background on the people you’re meeting from sources including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The app also reminds you of upcoming meetings and tracks your history with that contact.
Contactually: Contactually focuses on (you guessed it!) contacts. The app helps you stay in touch with everyone in your life, from family and friends, to business contacts and neighbors. Simply put your contacts into “buckets” and choose how often you want to follow up with them. Contactually will then automatically create follow-ups and let you know the last time you spoke to that person. Contactually also lets you save templates to make congratulations and follow-ups even more convenient.
In an ideal work environment, we all stay interested, motivated and excited for the day ahead. But all of us have days when we need an extra reminder to stay productive. By referring back to this list of tips and useful apps, staying productive will become that much easier this spring, and beyond.
Want to learn more? Check out these other great resources:
- The Verge: The Best Calendar App For iPhone
- Tom’s Guide: 20 Best Productivity Apps
- Green Bot: Why You Should Take Another Look at Google Keep, the Best Free Organizational Tool on Android
- BidSketch: How to Be Productive: 7 Ways Freelancers Can Get More Done
- Livestrong: How Does Exercise Improve Work Productivity